In another physical and nasty showdown, the Montreal Canadiens downed the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 at Rogers Place on Wednesday night.
“You’ve got to be willing to play that game to be successful, and the more game you play like that, if you can get some success from it, you can push your team along,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said after the game.
Oilers forward Zack Kassian left the game for good just three minutes into the first period. He hit Habs defenceman Shea Weber behind the Montreal net and then struggled to get to the bench. He had to be helped to the dressing room by the Oilers’ medical staff.
“All you can do is skate through checks and try to make them take (a penalty) on us,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “As the game went on, we started to do that a little bit more.
“You can’t get too frustrated and you can’t get on the refs too much — just let the game play out and obviously when we get an opportunity on the power play, be ready to capitalize.”
“It is what it is,” Tippett said. “I’m not going to comment on the referees. I’ll just leave it at that.”
The Canadiens outshot the Oilers 13-4 in the first and took the lead in the final minute on a backhand by Artturi Lehkonen.
“We’ve got to start the game a little more desperate and a little more physical, and I know, myself, I’ve been trying to work on playing harder and finishing guys in the corners and it was a good test for me tonight — for sure — and for our whole group,” Edmonton defenceman Caleb Jones said.
Early in the second, Edmonton defenceman Caleb Jones sent Oilers captain Connor McDavid in on a breakaway. McDavid beat Montreal goaltender Jake Allen for this 25th goal of the season.
Habs forward Josh Anderson came right back 11 seconds later to restore the Canadiens’ lead.
“That’s one you’d like to not give up, for sure,” Tippett said.
Montreal forward Tyler Toffoli took advantage of a loose puck in front to score on the power play with 11:50 left in the third. Anderson added his second of the evening with 4:57 to go.
With Edmonton netminder Mike Smith on the bench for an extra attacker, Nugent-Hopkins scored a power-play goal with just over two minutes to go.
The Oilers kept the pressure on and pulled within a goal with 1:11 left on a long shot by McDavid. At first the goal was credited to the Oilers’ captain, but Edmonton forward Jesse Puljujarvi was later credited with the goal on a deflection.
In the final 30 seconds, Allen made a couple of big saves to preserve the win for the Habs.
“We have some veterans in that room and we kind of had a conversation about how we’re going to have to start playing here,” Jones said. “You can’t just ‘turn on’ the playoffs, you have to get in that playoff mindset with about 15 games left in the year.
“Every game we’re trying to play the same way and bring that same intensity.”
Nugent-Hopkins returned after missing two weeks with an upper-body injury. Oilers forward Jujhar Khaira didn’t play after being shaken up Monday.
The Oilers (27-16-2) will visit Winnipeg on Monday.
–With files from 630 CHED’s Brenden Escott